December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)
My knee jerk reaction to this prompt is, “Well, I didn’t.”
Then I chastise myself because I know that’s not true; it’s just that the sense of wonder that filled 2010 for me doesn’t fit into any cliche or come from a grand exploration of nature, or the beach or any other natural phenomena which is what I generally associate with “wonder.” This year my sense of wonder came from the work I’ve been doing for my dissertation research, from talking to so many women gamers and seeing why and how gaming has been important and valuable for them, questions I hadn’t even really considered for myself before I started the research.
Many ethnographic researchers it seems to me enter the field already looking for an answer that they suppose is there, and I did that to some degree, especially along the lines of the chapter I wrote on Cyber Drag – the performance of gender online. I thought, “Hey, so many guys take on female toons, women must do the same, right? Right??!!!”
Why did I think that? I am not sure now, especially since I play exclusively female avatars. It was an interesting assumption to have that OTHER women gamers would engage the game in a way that male players did but I didn’t. I think it’s one of the most arrogant moments I had in the whole process; why in the world would I believe other gamers might do something I don’t do?
Well, a few of them did although the vast majority were much more like me, wanting to see some version of themselves on the screen so they could feel the power that comes with mastering an online environment.
But this is all off track. The sense of wonder I felt was more about how utterly open and honest the interviews were, how important gaming is to so many people who play, and that is the sense of wonder I want to infuse within the dissertation. It’s so easy to dimiss gaming, I mean when you want to insult something someone is doing you can call it a game, or it’s “only” or “just” a game. It’s totally dismissive. It gaming a form of escapism? Absolutely yes. But so is reading a novel, watching television, or shopping. We all need to escape, especially in a world that somehow seems to keep speeding up and getting more complicated. (Maybe someday I’ll unpack whether that’s because I’m getting older or because the world keeps changing.)
As a note, I almost didn’t post this which is why it’s coming out a few days late. It doesn’t really feel cohesive to me, something that I have a difficult time with as a writer. But it’s an important reminder to me, as I move into writing the last chapter of the dissertation, to incorporate that sense of wonder into my words.